Life Among the Vikings by Thomas Streissguth

By Thomas Streissguth

Discusses the historical past, settlements, social constitution, faith, occupations, and tradition of the Vikings

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As fertilizer, farmers used cow dung. In some places, a system of crop rotation was used, with fields planted with grain one year, vegetables the next. Viking farms were carefully laid out and usually included a shed or byre to shelter the horses, oxen, cows, sheeps, and pigs that were raised for food or used as work animals. The livestock grazed on nearby pastures, but when nearby pasture land became scarce, the animals were driven to summer pastures at higher altitudes. Manufacturing Well before the Vikings, the Iron Age had arrived in Scandinavia when the people of the region learned to mine local iron ore (called "bog iron" because much of it was found in marshy land).

Meat or fish were prepared in small pots, or wrapped in leaves, and then placed in the ground with heated stones for cooking. Meat could also be boiled in pots with vegetables or roasted on spits over an open fire. To eat, the Vikings used clay or wooden plates, bowls, and cups, as well as knives and spoons; forks were still unknown. As in the rest of Europe, bread was the staple food of Scandinavia. The Vikings made their bread from ground rye or barley flour; finer wheat flour was uncommon. Large, heavy stones, known as querns, were used to grind the grain into flour; fragments from the querns often mixed with the flour, making it gritty.

They decorated themselves with ribbons and pleated cords, and their clothing with intricate embroidery. As in Europe, caps were worn by the Scandinavians and made of leather, wool, or silk, and they were sometimes decorated with small tassels. Viking shoes were made of calfskin or goatskin and were commonly laced around the ankle. The Vikings used skates or iron spikes for walking across the winter ice. Ice skates were made from the long bones of horses' feet, smoothed out with a plane and lashed to the shoes.

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